By Chris Hays | Orlando Sentinel
7:54 PM EDT, July 16, 2011
The Florida Gators picked up their 14th commitment of the 2012 recruiting class with the pledge of Boiling Springs (N.C.) Crest safety Rhaheim Ledbetter on Friday morning. A happy day in Gainesville, no doubt.
That all changed Friday night.
A pair of prospects the Gators had in their sights decided to commit on Dawg Night in Athens, Ga. As if the sting of 2012 OT John Theus (Jacksonville Bolles) committing to UGA wasn’t enough to irk Gator fans, then the later news did when the state¿s top player for 2013 RB Derrick Henry (6-4, 222) of Yulee High also committed to Georgia.
“It was the culture and the atmosphere and everything,” Henry said of UGA. ¿In talking to [coaches] and them saying how they felt about me and everything and talking to my family … it just felt like it was the right decision and where I want to be.¿
Last week at Nike's "The Opening," in Beaverton, Ore., Henry told serveral recruiting services that he had the Gators at the top of his list.
"They are showing the most interest and I'm a Florida fan," Henry told ESPN's Corey Long. "They are moving to a pro-style offense and the new coaching staff is great. Everyone seems to be excited right now."
It was a complete reversal of Henry's thoughts last fall when he was a heavy lean toward Florida State. Of course, Friday night's commitment was a complete reversal of what he had said last week.
"I said the Gators were my top team, but just because I've always been a Gators fan and it's a place where I always wanted to play growing up," Henry said from Athens via cell phone Friday night. "But just thinking about my top two -- Georgia and Florida -- I feel like I can majke a big impact at Georgia at running back. They'll only have one running back then and I really feel like it's the best decision for me."
His top five schools were Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
The junior finished fourth in the Nike SPARQ national championships on July 6. In his first two varsity seasons at Yulee, Henry rushed for nearly 5,300 yards and scored 65 touchdowns. If he stays healthy, records are likely to fall.
There will be plenty of disappointed Gators fans out there, but Henry says he'll just have to deal with that.
"I know, I know, I know ¿ I can handle it," Henry said. "It's just where I felt I wanted to go. I know there will be a lot of heat and I¿m only human. People have their opinions, but I gotta do what¿s right for me. Georgia, it's a done deal."
Henry said he knows Theus well.
"Yeah, me and John are real good friends," Henry said. "We talked about how it¿s a good program and we could make a big impact coming here to help bring the program back to where it belongs."
Theus (6-6, 292), the top lineman in the state of Florida and the No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation according to Rivals.com, follows his brother, long snapper Nathan, to UGA. Theus is also ranked as the No. 7 overall player in the nation by Rivals. UF was the second choice for both players.Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com.
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